Capping off the eliminations with a win over the FEU Tamaraws, the DLSU Green Booters locked in a semi-final slot as the third seed, finishing a spot above their elimination round standings last year. The Green-and-White then stunned the Fighting Maroons in the semi-final, as they escaped with a 2-1 victory that gave them their first finals berth since 2015.
With a golden opportunity in their hands against their archrivals, the ADMU Blue Eagles, a revamped, rookie-laden DLSU Men’s Football Team is seeking to end their 22-year championship drought and bring glory back to DLSU Football.
A season to remember
It was never easy going down the stretch. With a fresh squad coming into play, the Green Booters sported an 8-1-5 win-draw-loss record heading into the postseason festivities. Throughout the season, the Green-and-White never had a recurring theme to begin with given the nature of the volatile record—but nonetheless, the team fought hard and secured a victory against the UP Fighting Maroons with hopes of bringing the championship back to Taft.
The Taft-based squad opened their campaign against the UST Growling Tigers in the losing effort. Rookie John Rhey Lagura scored the first goal of the season at the 14’ mark, only to be answered back three times for the rest of the game. Although, the final match of the regular season did not disappoint as a late goal from Xavier Zubiri lifted DLSU against the FEU and sent the team back to the final four.
Alongside Lagura and Zubiri, rookies were the name of the game throughout the season as new blood Shanden Vergara, Mohammad Almohjili, and Jovan Marfiga also scored in key matches to boost the team’s record.
The Green Booters will face the ADMU Blue Eagles in the winner-takes-all finals matchup. The last time DLSU faced ADMU was during the second round, where a favorable result would have been the desired outcome, but a dominating 3-1 performance from the opposition split the head-to-head record between the teams.
Coach Alvin Ocampo, who was part of the UAAP Season 60 championship team of La Salle, shares that he is happy that he was given the opportunity and trust of being named head coach this season. He emphasizes, “We need to pass on our knowledge, beliefs, and experience to the next batch.”
To turn the tide in their favor, the Green-and-White will likely look towards strikers Lagura and Vergara to finish plays, the latter bearing five goals to his name. Vergara is the fourth highest scorer this season, just behind league-leaders Jarvey Gayoso and Rupert Baña from the Blue Eagles and UP’s Kintaro Miyagi with 10, nine, and seven goals, respectively. Lagura, meanwhile, racked up three goals despite missing most of the elimination round due to injury.
Another player-to-watch is winger Mateo Alegre, who can set up teammates inside the box with crosses from the right flank. Aiming to “[provide] consistent threats for the opponents” in the upcoming match, Alegre shares, “The one thing the coaches tell me to do is to run and to never stop running, which is what I try to do every time I’m given the chance to play.”
Other players outside of the usual starting XI have previously stepped up in the clutch. After a header to lift the team past the Ateneans in their first round matchup, Alfonso Montelibano also received more minutes up front, scoring as an impact substitute in the second round of eliminations. Such attacking options off the bench could help propel the Green Booters past the Blue Eagles.
On the defensive end, both Gab Villacin and Mig Brosoto are on their rookie outing between the posts. Brosoto became the starting keeper during La Salle’s four-game win streak to close the season, though Villacin was the only one to record a clean sheet—once, against the NU Bulldogs in the first round. For either player, pulling out crucial saves could spell the difference for their team’s results.
The last hurdle
When asked about the opposition in the finals, second year player Manu Cruel’s response is, “Ateneo is a very strong team, I’m not gonna lie, but we believe in our ability as a team, and we know we can come out on top. Coming into this game we all see ourselves as equals, both teams got into the final and anything can happen.”
For the team, having a winning mentality and remaining confident are factors that played a huge difference in the team’s success this season so far. Cruel also shares that he does not feel any pressure facing Ateneo. “We come into all our games with the same mindset and the same mentality, which is to win. But we know it’ll be one hell of a game,” he elaborates.
“They have the championship experience, we have the never say die mentality,” Ocampo concludes.
The DLSU Green Booters are setting their sights on the crown, as they go up against the ADMU Blue Eagles in the finals of the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Football Tournament tomorrow, May 16, at 4pm at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.